Not too long ago, Dystopian Futures debuted their ep Low Arts, which proved quite surprising with its blend of garage, punk, and hardcore that reminded listeners of the old days of punk when bands would experiment. While the debut was impressive, the 6 minute length left us wanting more, so now in their follow up ep The Tyranny of Things, the band/project more than doubled their previous outputThe band itself is made up of Dave Emmerson (ex-Old Timers) handling vocals and bass and Scott Key (ex-Voice of the Mysterons) on guitars and drums, mostly. The two of them incorporate a number of other sounds in the songs with each band member taking the responsibility for a bunch and on this album they brought in guest trumpeter Chris Davis and a Lewis M. Lewis, Dani, Jed, and Myles to join them in the “Post-Industrial Choir” (aka gang vocals).
The ep opens up calmly enough but with the title “Dead Philosophers” on a punk rock album one can quickly imagine the lyrics may be mostly a recitation of famous philosophers who are, in fact, dead. Musically, I get a bit of Fugazi vibe in the early part of the song as it builds into a bit of melody as Dave’s voice gets louder and more ragged.
Of course, the next track “Computer Face Boy” is quite a bit different in style and structure, one of the hallmarks of Dystopian Futures. In this track Dave barks out much of the song in a staccato manner while Scott comes in with a smoother more melodic delivery on the chorus sections. The song features some cool bass work underlying everything else, which is readily heard in the mix, which is certainly on the raw side.
“Bleak” goes in another direction and reminds me a lot of some of the faster tracks on Nirvana’s Bleach album at least in terms of the distorted but still somewhat jangly guitar. As always, Dave’s voice cuts through the noise and the drums drive the song along.
“Joy Davidman” is a near three minute long spoken word track from author Joy Davidman’s book Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments.that is accompanied by a slow thumping bass and drum line with some sorrowful sounding guitar notes and riffs layered over the top. Those in the know will remember that Davidman was a one-time atheist turned Christian who was married to CS Lewis before dying of cancer.
“Post-Industrial” features some very cool, ominous sounding bass lines that open the song and back Dave Emmerson’s vocals before the guitars and trumpet (?) come in. This bass line returns to prominence from time to time and carries the song as the guitar parts end up mostly in a supporting role. As the song builds, so does the tension along with the raggedness in Dave’s voice.
Dystopian Futures pack a lot of different sounds and styles in this ep, never losing the raw, garage feel that hearkens back to earlier days in punk rock when bands would experiment. Through it all and despite the wide shifts in sound, Dave and Scott manage to keep things coherent and show a unique ability to build tension through a song without relying on many of the standard methods employed by others.
Written by John Jackson
1. Dead Philosophers
2. Computer Face Boy
4. Joy Davidman
Dave Emmerson – Vocals, bass, didge, slide whistle
Scott Key – Guitar, vocals, drums, fiddle, mandolin, saxophone, trashcan, programming
Chris Davis – Trumpet
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Record Label: ZAP Records
Weblinks: Bandcamp / Facebook